Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints


Jun 20, 2013

Electronic Payments

Aid Disbursement: Extending Relief & Bringing People Into the Formal Financial System

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 42.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee from their homes due to conflict, natural disasters or persecution.  Much of these are from the geography I oversee; Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa. As the world comes together on June 20 to recognize World Refugee Day, the occasion serves to raise awareness about the hardships these displaced persons endure and reminds us of the importance of extending relief to them.

While great strides have been made in delivering much-needed assistance to displaced persons since the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees entered into force in 1954, relief and assistance to refugees still largely come in the form of food and supplies.  While these forms of aid provide valuable assistance that can make a world of difference, they can also be expensive to transport, inefficient and ineffective.  For example, food and other supplies may be prone to spoilage or theft, and may go unused and wasted if donated supplies do not meet the needs of the local environment.  In places prone to corruption, relief in the form of cash may never reach those in need.

Today, evolutions in technology are enabling new industries, such as electronic payment systems, to play a vital and complementary role to the work that aid agencies, governments and civil groups do to disburse supplies and assistance.

Electronic payment network operators, such as Visa, have been working alongside governments, NGOs and others to improve and streamline the delivery of aid through electronic payment products. This not only makes the delivery of aid instantaneous and secure, but also extends access to basic financial services to those in need.  As such products can be linked to a bank account at a licensed financial institution, this is often the first opportunity for many people to be included in the formal financial system.


For instance, in Pakistan, the National Identity Agency of Pakistan, United Bank Limited and Visa teamed up to distribute badly needed aid to families fleeing their homes after fighting broke out in the country’s Northwest Frontier Province.  The partners distributed aid on Visa prepaid cards, each loaded with 25,000 rupees (US$300), and installed terminals in local businesses to accept payment cards and connect them to the global payments network. These terminals helped displaced persons use their preloaded prepaid cards to buy much-needed food, medicine and other essential supplies from local merchants, and gave these businesses the opportunity to participate in the global economy. As a result of the program, more than 270,000 new bank accounts were created, offering otherwise excluded citizens access to secure and reliable financial services.

In July 2011, flooding devastated the Philippine island of Mindanao, the second largest island in the country. More than 120,000 families and 7,000 acres of crops were affected. Visa, together with Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) member Action Against Hunger/ACF International and Philippine Veterans Bank, delivered a voucher program using Visa prepaid cards to affected families. The beneficiaries used the cards to purchase food and supplies at supermarkets in the area. The program rolled out in eight days, and two monthly fund transfers were made to the recipients via the prepaid cards, helping to automate the disbursement process and alleviate the burden on the families.  

As we come together on World Refugee Day to reflect upon the importance of extending relief to people displaced from their homes due to conflict, natural disasters or persecution, we are encouraged by innovative solutions that can help bring greater transparency and efficiency to aid distribution.  These have the power to provide displaced persons with the dignity and flexibility to obtain the supplies and assistance relevant to their needs, and stimulate the local economy.  As we survey the realm of possibilities, Visa, for one, is excited about the opportunities ahead to better serve those in need.



Posted by: Erin Steinhauer, Corporate Relations, APCEMA on June 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

Mar 6, 2013

New World Economic Forum Report Underscores the Importance of Data Collection and Use in Context

Last week the World Economic Forum release a report called, “Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: From Collection to Usage.” As part of the Forum’s steering board on personal data, I was able to contribute to the report, which explores the importance of unlocking the value of data in a way that preserves the trust of all stakeholders.

One important theme in the report is the value of managing consumer expectations through context setting. What that means is the use of personal data should be understandable when compared to what is being shared and why. Most consumers don’t need or want every detail of every data flow. What they are ultimately looking for is clear benefits from use of their data. For that they need context.

At Visa we understand the importance of context. In the Visa system, for example, consumers are delighted when analytics are used to identify attempted fraud on their accounts. I have repeatedly heard from consumers who applaud us for working with their bank to flag a suspicious purchase. It makes them feel safer. It is only possible if we use their own shopping behavior to look for patterns. But this data use is expected — and welcomed — by consumers because they understand the context.  And they support its purpose.

As companies explore new ways to use data and the opportunities and responsibilities that come with them, they need to keep the importance of context and consumer expectations in mind. When consumers understand the context, they feel a sense of transparency and control. With context, there is trust. And with trust, there is opportunity.


Posted by: Ellen Richey, Chief Enterprise Risk Officer on March 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Feb 19, 2013

Electronic Payments Modernize the Face of Government Benefits

From eCommerce to eBanking, digital commerce is changing the way people around the world shop, pay and be paid.  The Electronic Payments Association explains that the average business saves between $2,000 and $7,000 annually by using electronic payments rather than paper checks. 

 The cost savings, enhanced security, broad convenience and universal acceptance of electronic payments have recently prompted the U.S. government to mandate the trend and extend the benefits of digital payments to Social Security payment recipients.  Beginning March 1, 2013, paper checks for Social Security benefits will virtually disappear.

This will affect five million Americans still receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits by check, and save taxpayers more than $100 million a year.  The switch will enhance security, help decrease fraud and eliminate theft of paper checks from mailboxes by issuing funds directly to the recipient, electronically.

It’s clear that more than ever technology is shaping the way we live nearly every aspect of our lives.  Single function currency like cash and check comes with significant limitations, especially when consumers shop online, move between payment devices and need their payments to move seamlessly with them and work reliably wherever they shop.  Using credit, debit, and prepaid cards is the norm for many Americans and this is one more step in the march away from paper checks and cash.

For more information on the transition to electronic benefits, visit:


Posted by: Jennifer Schulz, Global Head of eCommerce on February 19, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Feb 13, 2013

Visa Accelerates Access to Financial Services

Extending the benefits of electronic payments to more people has always been a priority for Visa. This morning we took a major step toward giving unbanked consumers in developing countries access to the security and reliability of electronic payments and financial services.

Visa today announced the launch of a new service that makes it easy and cost-effective for financial institutions and mobile network operators in developing countries to offer unbanked consumers access to financial services by linking a virtual account that is tied to a consumers’ mobile-phone number. Aircel and ICICI in India, as well as Bank of Kigali and Urwego Opportunity Banks in Rwanda are the first to take advantage of this service.

Why is this important? The ability to pay a utility bill, send money to a relative living in another country, or withdraw money at an ATM by simply texting payment instructions to the bank is a game changer for consumers in countries where cash has been the only form of payment, and where paying bills usually means standing in line for hours.

This is just the beginning. More than 2 billion consumers worldwide are unbanked, many of whom own a mobile phone. It is the ubiquity of mobile technology, especially in developing countries, that is finally making it possible for us to extend financial services to the unbanked. Today’s announcement is a great example of Visa’s role in this journey, which is to harness mobile technology to enable financial institutions and mobile operators to drive access to formal financial services and electronic payments.

For more information about Visa Mobile Managed Service, click here.


Posted by: Jim McCarthy, Head of Global Product, Visa Inc. on February 13, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Nov 29, 2012

Analyst Viewpoints: The Future of the Paper-based Payments in the B2B Space

Like many experts, Patricia McGinnis, a payments industry vet with Mercator Advisory Group, foresees a steady increase in card-based payments. She also notes that this shift is already well underway with checks accounting for only about half of B2B payments in the U.S.

I sat down with McGinnis recently. She’s been looking at trends in the industry for more than 15 years and always has an interesting perspective especially when it comes to the commercial market. During this conversation, I asked her how she saw the shift from paper-based to electronic payments playing out in the commercial space. While there is a huge opportunity, McGinnis notes that the opportunity is there for the taking and there are some challenges in the card market that need conquering. Check out this video for more of her thoughts. Where do you see commercial payments in 2013?


Posted by: Erika White, Visa Corporate Relations on November 29, 2012 at 9:42 am

Sep 11, 2012

Canadian Economy Gets Boost From Electronic Payments (Study)

The benefits of electronic payments for consumers, business and governments are well understood but often difficult to quantify in real numbers. How do you measure the value to consumers who don’t have to worry about not having enough cash in their pockets; or for businesses that lower their cash handling costs and governments that improve efficiencies.

Visa Canada recently commissioned IHS Global Insight, a leading economic and financial consulting firm, to model and measure the total value and impact of electronic payments in the Canadian economy. The results are significant: electronic payments contributed $196 billion to Canada’s economic growth over the past 25 years. That’s equal to nearly 25 percent of the $786 billion in total GDP growth.

Benefits of Electronic Payments in Canada

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

  • Between 1991 and 2010, electronic payments contributed an additional $3.1 billion in economic activity to the travel and tourism sector.
  • Canadian businesses that use commercial card programs can better manage, track and control their travel and entertainment and procurement expenses.  Commercial card programs have been proven to reduce costs by as much as $71 per transaction when compared to a traditional purchase-order process.1 Across North America, commercial card use drives $38 billion in savings for businesses annually.
  • Online activity doubled over five years to $15.3 billion in 2010. In 2010, more than 11 million online shoppers spending an average of $1,460 every year.

To read more about the study, visit Canada’s Currency of Progress site or download the study here .


Posted by: Wayne Best, Chief Economist, Visa on September 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Dec 4, 2011

Delivering Electronic Financial Services in Africa

Greetings from Rwanda.

I am delighted to be posting this blog from Kigali, Rwanda where, along-side Ambassador Claver Gatete, Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, we just announced a new public-private partnership between Visa and the Government of Rwanda to electronify financial services.

Why have we entered into this partnership and what is it all about?

At Visa, we believe that everyone has a right to access basic financial and payment services.  And over the past six months, we have been working closely with the Government of Rwanda to forge a partnership to accelerate the delivery of such services to the Rwandan population.

Today, we are proud to share an overview of our collective labors: a Charter of Collaboration aimed at developing localized solutions to extend access to financial services to local and international consumers throughout the country.

The Charter of Collaboration encompasses 12 initiatives structured around three key areas identified by the Government of Rwanda and Visa as vital to the development of a fully-inclusive financial system:

Laying the Foundations for Electronic Payments – We have committed to working together to develop the basic infrastructure requirements which will enable country-wide use of electronic payments.  This means facilitating the widespread issuance and acceptance of payment cards and the localization of clearing and settlement services.

Promoting Electronic Payments Innovation –Secondly, we have agreed to work to ensure that Rwanda can take advantage of modern technologies to reach Rwandans who are under-served by traditional payments infrastructure.  I expect mobile payments to be a big part of this solution and we’ll talk more about that in the coming months.

Capacity Building –Finally, building a robust electronic payment infrastructure requires more than products and technology.  To ensure long-term economic success, we have committed to delivering a coordinated and sustained program of capacity building.  This will comprise a range of initiatives designed to increase financial literacy and provide industry training and experience for local Rwandans.

You can see the detail of the Charter itself by following this link.

Public-private partnership is a cornerstone of Rwanda’s approach to development.  It is also a key component of Visa’s global growth strategy as well.  To me, this Charter has all the makings of a classic win-win and we’ll be certain to keep you informed of progress


Posted by: Elizabeth Buse, Visa Group President, Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa on December 4, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Apr 21, 2011

Tourism Spending by International Visa Cardholders Rebounds in Mexico

I recently spoke with Andrea McKenna from PaymentsSource to discuss some of the key findings from our recent Tourism Outlook: Mexico report. A key takeaway from our chat: “People are traveling to Mexico again.”


Posted by: Paul Wilke, Visa Corporate Relations on April 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Apr 14, 2011

Migration Watch: Online Payments in India

Over the last few years, India has taken giant strides towards accepting electronic payments to cut their costs and give their customers a more secure, convenient and reliable alternative. This momentum has been observed across private and public institutions.

Indian Railways is a good example of a massive state-run entity that is rapidly adopting card payments, particularly online, to reduce the interminable lines at train stations across the country. Today, more than a quarter of a million tickets are sold online every day. It’s a true win-win, since customers save time by not standing in long queues waiting to book tickets and Indian Railways saves rupees every time a ticket is sold through its eCommerce site.

Recently, there was more encouraging news with Information Kerala Mission, the state’s e-governance authority, announcing that citizens of Thiruvananthapuram in the Indian state of Kerala can chose to pay their property taxes online through debit and credit cards. This pilot program will expand to six other cities later this year and is the first phase in the agency’s program enabling electronic payments for professional taxes and other government services. In the words of Sajjad Bhayani, owner of Asiatic Dry Fruits, who we met during our visit: “The new generation, they are all carrying cards. It’s the future.” We couldn’t agree more!


Posted by: Uttam Nayak, Group Country Manager, Visa Inc. on April 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Feb 14, 2011

Emerging Payment Types = New Opportunities

The payments industry has always been one of dynamic change so we were encouraged to read a recent AllThingsD profile of a start-up called Square.

Square is a service that enables merchants, who have traditionally been limited by paper-based payments, to accept electronic payments through a credit card reader that plugs into a phone or iPad. This is a big deal and will help the entire payments industry’s efforts in bringing access to electronic payments to a segment that has historically not been easy to serve—very small merchants.


Posted by: Elvira Swanson, Visa Corporate Relations on February 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm